Clam and Chowder House
At Salivar’s Dock
470 West Lake Drive
Lunch and dinner, Thursday
through Monday, noon-4 p.m.
and 5-10 p.m.
When I brought a group of friends to review Westlake Clam and Chowder House a few years ago, they tried to convince me to write a mediocre review. Everyone loved it so much they wanted it to be “their little secret.” Well, “their little secret” has moved and expanded, to what seems to be triple the original size, and is now called the Clam and Chowder House at Salivar’s Dock. What used to be home of the best hangover eggs is now the home of awesome sushi and more.
Not much has changed in the venerable Salivar’s huge bar area. The massive mounted and hung fish remain, the tail of a 540-pound thresher shark hangs over the bar, the jaws of a 4,500-pound great white shark gape from a wall, and a few disco balls add some sparkle. It is a beautiful high-ceilinged room with a neon Salivar’s sign, green-and-white-checked linoleum floor, and is about as noisy as a bar can get. Granted there were dueling sports events that evening, the Belmont race and U.S. vs. Nigeria soccer.
To the left of the bar are various levels of dining options, indoors and outdoors, upstairs and downstairs. There is a long sushi bar and an upper deck to take in lovely sunset views. After dodging spindly lasses in stiletto heels mincing along the roadways to reach Cyril’s and the Surf Lodge, we arrived at the Clam and Chowder House early enough to get a table outside.
We began our meal with buffalo blowfish tails, shrimp shumai, and shaved brussels sprouts salad. To serve blowfish with buffalo wing sauce is genius, and this was an excellent example. The crunchy tails were coated with just enough hot sauce to enhance the sweet mildness of the fish. Four big ones were on a platter of lettuce with the usual accoutrements — carrot and celery sticks and a good blue cheese dressing. The shrimp shumai were very good. It’s hard to tell if they were made in house or commercially. What enhanced them were the light, somewhat meaty sauce on the bottom of the plate and some delicate slivers of scallion.
The shaved brussels sprouts salad was excellent. The finely shredded sprouts were tossed with fresh peas, some frisee, toasted walnuts, shredded Parmesan, and a pretty, edible orchid.
For entrees we tried the pan-seared yellowfin tuna, pan-roasted fluke, and a Fire Island sushi roll. The pan-seared yellowfin tuna was a generous portion, two big steaks cooked medium rare with just a bit of salt and pepper. They were topped with a shredded papaya salad with red onions. It was similar to Thai green papaya salad, but the papaya was halfway ripened so it was slightly sweet. The tuna was on a bed of black rice (also known as “forbidden” rice as it used to be reserved only for royalty). Black rice is crunchy and nutty and nutritious! There were a few swirls of a tasty basil vinaigrette on the plate, which just made the whole dish delicious.
The pan-roasted fluke was another winner. It was kind of a deconstructed fish taco. The fluke fillets were piled on top of a mild avocado puree with a corn and crab salad, crumbled tortilla chips, and roasted shishito peppers. The corn and crab salad was sweet, the avocado rich and creamy, the shishitos slightly spicy. My only criticism of this dish is that the shishitos were overcooked, just slightly limp, as though they’d been boiled before roasting.
The Fire Island roll was also excellent. Sometimes I order rolls with too much stuff in them, on them, and around them, but all of the flavors and textures of this roll came through. The shrimp tempura stayed crunchy (no mean feat at a marina), and the spicy tuna and kani were flavorful. The best part was the creamy yuzu, drizzled along the sasa (bamboo) leaf lining the platter. Soy sauce was superfluous.
For such a large, busy, and casual place, the Clam and Chowder House was impressively clean and organized. The staff are friendly and professional. Our waiter was excellent; he knew his stuff.
The prices at the Clam and Chowder House are moderate. Soups, salads, and appetizers are $4 to $16, entrees are $18 to $38 (or market price), kids menu items are $7 to $10, sushi, sashimi, and handrolls are $3 to $18.75, and desserts are $9.
The desserts are made in-house and are given as verbals, with no printed menu. We only had room for two, so we tried the ice cream sandwich and banana cream pie. They are not skimpy on the whipped cream! The ice cream sandwich was two fat macadamia nut white chocolate chip cookies with coconut ice cream and fudge sauce underneath. Did I mention whipped cream? The cookies were very good, the coconut ice cream also very good, but the fudge sauce the best. It was the old-fashioned kind that starts off warm and gooey, then thickens on contact with the cold ice cream. The banana cream pie was also very good, super fresh with a fluffy vanilla pudding full of bananas in a flaky crust and lots and lots of, you guessed it, whipped cream.
A few other noteworthy aspects of Clam and Chowder House are the fishing vessels named on the menu and the $20 nightly wine special. Thank you, Standin’ Up, Lady K, Alexandria Down, New Species, Babalou, Panther, Sequel 1, Ocean Spirit, and 2 Sea Sons for your fresh, fresh fish, and thank you, owners of Clam and Chowder House, for taking the sting out of buying a decent bottle of wine with dinner.
Clam and Chowder House cannot be anybody’s “little secret.” It’s just too good.